Christmas in Germany… Weihnachtsmarkt

When the weather turns cold here in Europe everyone knows its time for the Christkindlmarkt! Christmas in Europe is a very special time of the year, from all the decorations to the beautiful winter foliage – there is sure to be something for everyone!

I am sharing just a few of the Markets that I traveled to this year and in years past. After living over here in Europe and visiting for the last three years I have hit quite a few of them! You can never go wrong with choosing a market, wether they are in Germany or other places in Europe they always have the same things to look for and find that are the best parts of every Christmas market!

The best items to get at a German Christmas market or any markets across Europe are of course… the FOOD, a few handmade items and last but not least, the Gluwhein or the hot mulled wine!

Make sure to take a picture of yourself in front of the Christmas sign, the decorated trees and indulge in the sweet treats that are all around you! My favorites are definitely the crepes filled with Nutella and banana OR the tiny little pancakes called Poffers.. YUM! You are sure to always find a Wurst mit Brochen.. the german way to say a bratwurst with bread 🙂 DELICIOUS! Also they have a pizza type of cuisine called flammkuchen that is a small flat bread pizza with a white cream sauce on top then topped with tiny pieces of bacon, onion and cheese. These are what are traditional to German markets but other places – like hungry – might have other specialty items! One for example is the Kürtőskalács– a dough that has been wrapped around a large wooden stick to make a “chimney cake” desert. They are then cooked over an open fire, once cooked they are then doused with cinnamon and sugar!

There are so many stands that will sell you the traditional Christmas Market drink… Gluhwein, served in a souvenir mug (costs a pfland or deposit) but its yours to keep if you want! If you return it you get your deposit back. They also have Hot Schokolade, or a kinderpunsch if you aren’t into the alcoholic beverages. 🙂

Make sure to grab a few crucial photo ops while at the markets, and continue drinking your Gluwhein!

  • Photo of the holiday mug served at every market
  • Snap a pic of the live animal manger scenes that will make an appearance at most markets
  • Smile big in front of the biggest Christmas tree you can find!
  • Make sure to document which market you went to with a pic in front of the arch or sign & entrance.
  • Who can find the biggest Christmas carousel? Snap a pic in front of one that you find!
  • Snap a pic of your wurst sandwich find.. almost impossible to leave a market with out partaking in one of these as a snack.
  • A picture of your handmade ornament that was the most unique
  • A picture with your friends and family at the market!

This year my sister and I visited –

    Esslingen Christmas Market (my FAVE)
    Stuttgart Christmas Market
    Berlin Christmas Markets
  • Past years in Germany I have visited-
    • Wurzburg Market (smaller)
      Boblingen (smaller)
      ChocoArt Festival in Tubingen!
    In France I have only been to the Strasbourg Christmas market, which is one of the largest and oldest markets in all of Europe. It is truly a beautiful market and a beautiful fairytale like town that offers the Christmas feeling at every glance!

    My husband and I have also visited a few Christmas markets in Italy – Rome, Venice and Milan.

    Recently my sister and I have just traveled across the Eastern part of Europe where we got to experience the markets in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and the Czech Republic! Equally could all be my favorites places to go and spend Christmas time. The decorations, the food and the merriment made for a truly enjoyable trip through Europe! My next post will have more on this trip that I just took with my sister. It was such an amazing experience and you don’t want to miss out on the inside scoop!


    Multiple Sclerosis… and ME

    Read about life with MS and fundraising for National MS Society! See how you can share and help with the movement!

    I was diagnosed with MS back in 2015 at the young age of 24.   I struggled for a solid year with numbness, loss of vision, balance issues along with a long list of other problems.  Finally I found the answer.. Multiple Sclerosis which is an auto immune disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.   MS is very unpredictable and effects everyone diagnosed different.  The cause of MS is still unknown but much ground breaking research is being done today and growing rapidly.

    I volunteered with the MS Society when I first moved to Colorado back in 2013.  I had a friend who’s mother had been struggling with MS so I went to support her and many others.   I was inspired by the pure fight in many of these people, and the support from their friends and family and was just awed at such a great Society and cause that I wanted to keep helping.  Every year after, I would participate in the walk MS, until one day my participation status changed.  I went from being someone that knew a person with MS, to being the one people know with MS.

    The National MS Society gave me an outlet for dealing with my MS diagnosis.  I started my own Walk MS team and ran with it.  I loved being able to talk about my MS and not being scared or having it be a “crutch” for me.  I liked letting people know that yes… I have MS, but MS does NOT have me.  It gave me power and pushed me through the first few motions and the tough times.

    I’ve raised over $30,000 dollars with my team, Janel’s Myelin Security.  What does the name mean?? Well.. I wanted a name with a real “punch” With MS, the white blood cells start attacking our own bodies on the inside and destroy the myelin that is the coating to the nerves in the body.   My walk MS team, my friends and family and the many that I meet and ask to join my team are now essentially my Myelin protectors.. or Myelin Security. 🙂

    Do you have or know someone living with MS?  Do you want to be apart of a team that helps so many people diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis? OR do you enjoy raising money for a non profit and would like to donate your time?  Check out my Janel’s Myelin Security WALK MS TEAM PAGE and join us!

    **Since living in Germany, I haven’t found a way to be a major contributor to the MS community. BUT I plan on changing that!  With the world being so connected through technology, I am starting a movement with raising funds for this next year through the internet.  Share my page to anyone and everyone!  LETS fight MS for the many people who struggle with getting out of bed because of this chronic illness or for the ones that aren’t able to walk and put on clothes today. WE can make tomorrow a better day for everyone.  #breakthroughMS #MSWarrior #strongertogheter

    Follow us on Facebook! – https://www.facebook.com/JsMSTeam/

    Guinness, Jameson and Giants Causeway…Welcome to IRELAND!

    Now arriving in… Dublin,Ireland
    On a mid September afternoon we flew from Stuttgart Germany to Dublin, Ireland!
    We purchased our flights in advance and they cost us $200 total for the both my husband and myself. We purchased the flights using Kiwi.com.
    We arrived in Dublin around 7pm, where we then headed to our hostel, Barnacles. A great location which was the reason for us choosing this place other than the price being so low… but I have to admit, this being my first time staying in a hostel, it’ll be my last. Anyways the cost for the amazing location, which was literally right in the middle of it all -right by the temple bar, tons of restaurants and pubs on pubs- was 35€ per bed each night and came with free breakfast…but we had chosen to pass on that since it is of course vacation!
    We were starving by the time we finished checking in, so we just walked to a nearby street that was buzzing with people and pubs. We found a hole in the wall restaurant that was called the Klaw. People….it was to die for! Definitely check it out if you are planning a trip to Dublin… we had some lobster rolls as well as some Mac and cheese! But there was a lot more options to choose from and the seafood was freshhh 🙂
    Day 1- We wanted to get out of the city first and experience everything that the country side of Ireland and Northern Ireland have to offer.
    Saturday morning- we woke up early to meet our tour group that was taking us from Dublin to Belfast and to the Giants Causeway, with another quick stop to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. We spent 60€ for each ticket. But the ticket included the travel to Belfast, where you then got a taxi ride tour from a local through Belfast, Giants Causeway – absolutely amazing and a MUST SEE, rope bridge – which was my favorite part, simply because of the views. It was an all day tour and most definitely worth it! We used Wild Rover Tours -we booked the tour through Trip Advisor – Giants Causeway Tour & Northern Ireland.
    The tour started as soon as we arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  We were separated into groups and had an option to either go to the titanic museum or get the taxi tour -we chose the taxi tour because we wanted to know the history of Belfast. We were then all sent with a different taxi driver to drive us around and give us the Belfast tour.  Currently the history of Belfast is still struggling to find peace. They still have a wall that is up dividing the city that will close at certain times at night.  We were allowed to sign our names to the wall and take a quick pic.

    Once we were finished in Belfast, we headed to the Giants Causeway, which is a world UNESCO heritage sight, and is made up of interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. Extremely amazing sight to see and was a great way to get down to the ocean and see its beauty up close and personal.

    The final stop, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, was definitely my favorite. It had unmatched beauty with the cliffs located all around and the sound of the ocean when the tide went in and out against the rocks.  The ocean left me wanting more, and I will definitely be coming back for more in Northern Ireland.

    Saturday evening we arrived back in Dublin around 8pm… again, starved! Looking for a great place for yummy food… we were told of several spots I check out by the tour guide which included Murray’s bar. The bar had live music and looked appetizing, so we gave it a try. Upstairs was packed with people but we found a table downstairs that was way less crowded. We grabbed a couple of pints and ordered a bowl of seafood chowder each…DELICIOUS 🙂

    Other places that were suggested for either tradition Irish food or a place loved by some locals and also places I researched but didn’t have enough time to make a visit… yet 😉
    • The Church
    • The Celt Bar
    • O’Neills
    • The Lotts Bar
    • Temple Bar
    • The Stags Head
    • Boxty House
    • Muphy’s Ice Cream
    Day 2 – another full day – jam packed with history, delicious food and drinks!
    Sunday morning we woke up and headed straight for a donut!… The Rolling Donut shop was the perfect place to start our day… with a rolling start ;). We got the deal which was one donut plus a coffee for 5€. One of the best donuts I have had in a very long time, it’s a must try if you have a chance!

    Then we walked to Trinity college for the Book of Kells tour, which is located in the heart of Dublin. While walking though the cobbled stones at the college it brought you to the 18th century, when the college was built and the old library was constructed. In the old library is the Book of Kells. The book of Kells is one of the worlds oldest and famous books completed in 800 AD.

    …BUT the real star of the show, in my opinion was the long library. IF you get an early ticket and skip the book of Kells, only at first and then go straight to the library (which is past the book and up a stair case to the left) where there will be no one in your way (for great pics). Then you can circle back around and check out the rest of the exhibit. It cost us 13€ for each ticket into the library to visit the book of Kells and library exhibit.

    Then.. it was time, to go to the Guinness factory and the Jameson distillery… of course you have to hit these because they are such a well known part of the Dublin history.

    The Guinness Storehouse is a huge building that is packed with not only pints of beer but also information on how Guinness is created and the history of Guinness.  We have to point out our favorite floors… which were the tasting  room where we learned the full flavors of the beer, learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness -mine was the best ;), and also the dining floor that had 3 different restaurants to choose.  We chose to eat at the 1837 bar & brasserie restaurant where you could find anything from wings, cheese fries, burgers and even crab cakes! I chose the crab cakes (super delish) and hubs had the burger with Guinness cheese topped fries :).  THEN of course the very top floor that gives you a 360 degree view of Dublin.  It is definitely a “theme park” for adults and we goofed around in the Storehouse for a while just enjoying all the pints and some delicious food to pair with the dark stuff 😉 Tickets for the Guiness storehouse can be purchased through their website and the prices do fluctuate, but we bought a skip the line ticket through trip advisor for 20$ each.

    Jameson Distillery tour was pretty awesome, even though I’m not into the stuff I really enjoyed myself! My husband of course was in his element. The tour consisted a brief history of the Jameson family and how they created the factory.  The hard times they went through and then how they got to where they are today.  We also learned about the triple distillation process and what type of barrels they use and how long it stays before they are touched.  Then we got to go to the tasting room, where we compared Jameson to some other competitors.  At the end, we got a free drink!  Then we hung out around the bar and tried a few cocktails with Jameson mixed into each.
    The cost of this tour was 24$ each and came with the tastings and free drink, again purchased with Trip Advisor.
    Time to explore the rest of Dublin, one of our favorite things to do everywhere, when we travel is to get lost the streets!!  This is where you find the heart of a city, where the locals go or interesting things you can’t find any other way!
    Next on our list was… Celtic Nights!! We booked a traditional Celtic dance and dinner show, which I was extremely exited about! I have always wanted to see a live performance. It was a very good show where you could partake in singing Irish songs and experience the Irish dance. Took about two hours and the cost for the dinner and show was 40€. The food was also very good, we got to choose from a couple first courses as well as a main course. You could also order drinks throughout the entire show 😉 Located at the Arlington hotel right by the O’Connell Bridge and Liffey River.

    Monday morning rolled around and it was time to pack up our things and grab one last meal before we headed out… sad day, yes. We ended up going to the Goose on the Loose. It definitely hit the spot with some tasty coffee and American pancakes and eggs.

    Then we explored around and stopped into a couple of cafes for … more coffees and a few drinks before it was time to load up on the bus and head home.
    We were sad when thinking that our trip was so quick and now over. Dublin was definitely worth the trip (one of my favorites) and we can’t wait to hopefully some day come back to this beautiful city and country side where everything really is as green and they say it is and where the butter really is as yellow and good as they say it is!
    Quick travel tip**
    Bus pass from Dublin airport to your destination – when you walk out of the terminal make sure to find the bus information stand where you can purchase a bus transfer to and from the airport.  
    • We used the Airlink Express 747/757 bus and the cost was 12€ for a trip to and from the city center of Dublin =worth it.
    • We got off on the college green/temple bar stop.  Once we hopped off it was only a 5 minute walk to the Barnacles hostel where we stayed or the famous Temple bar.

    Post Cards! Who doesn’t love a good post card with the actual location stamp on the card!?

    I

    img_7929really enjoy sending a postcard to my family just to share my travels with them. 🙂

    • Anytime you are visiting a new country or attraction and you find some postcards, grab them and at the check out ask for some international stamps and if they have a mailbox around the area. This is a good way to get the local stamp on your cards as well!
    • Send one to yourself and you have a super neat memory/souvenir!

    Girl & Boy meet… Cancun, MEXICO!

    Find all the travel ins and outs for Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and even Cozumel as you read through our adventures in Mexico.

    Round up that passport, take off work, pack your bags!! ..oh wait did you buy the tickets??! We are taking off for Cancun, Mexico!

    MEXICO …This was one of my all time FAVORITE vacations, it was jam packed with so many activities that made for a very memorable experience. It was a VERY last minute trip, but sometimes this are the best!  We quickly packed our things and then relized we should probably actually buy those tickets we were talking about! We had decided to go and started packing without having actual tickets yet!!  DON’T do what we did.. but it was a thrill!

    We landed in Cozumel, Mexico where as soon as we stepped off the plane you could smell the salty ocean and relaxation in the air.  We got a ride to our resort, Secrets Aura Cozumel, it was an ADULTS ONLY resort #WINNING.  Our plan was to stay here a couple of nights and then move on to Playa Del Carmen, which was only a ferry ride away.

    About the Secrets Aura Cozumel Resort

    This was a great location on the beach and it was an Adult Only Resort which made it a lot calmer and a little more romantic, which is what we were wanting. They had 3 great main pools and also had a lazy river around one of the pools.

    The drinks were great, and the ceviche was very delicious as well.  They had 4 restaurants, a buffet venue, a grill and a cafe.  They also had 24 hour room service so you could dine at any time you liked!

    The first night we got to know the resort and found the restaurants that were there, of course since i’m all about the food!  We got some drinks and headed for the beach.  There was a dock that went out into the ocean, where you could dive off and swim around.  We hung out here until the sunset.  A beautiful end to the beginning of an amazing trip.

    After our nights were finished at Cozumel we headed over to Playa Del Carmen and stayed at the Occidental Allegro Playacar which was on the Playacar Beach.IMG_2106

    As far as a good location for activities, we felt that our next hotel was a far better choice and was geared more towards our “active” sides.

    About the Allegro Playacar Resort

    Ideal location in Play Del Carmen – They gave scuba lessons in the pool and offered excursions as well – had 2 super clean pools and swim up bars – 3 restaurants (had to make reservations) – daily snacks by the pool – delicious fresh fruit drinks that could be enjoyed poolside!

    This resort was so helpful with booking our tours, we just went to the same guy everyday and discussed what we wanted to do the next day or plan out several days in advance.

    We went to the front desk and decided to book a few adventures! Below are the trips that we booked. Also with a few other recommendations, for your own trip to Mexico.

    WHAT TO SEE AND WHAT TO DO?

    **TIP** Go to the front desk of your resort and look at all of the things to do in your location, the people will either help you book something or you can book it on your own, but it gives you great ideas for your trip!

    1. Swim with whale sharks & Isla Mujeres Island
      1. This cost us around $120 per person and included getting picked up and transferred to the location in Cancun where the boat meets to pick up all of the Whale Shark swimmers.
      1. Wait WHAT is a WHALE SHARK?!…okay so they are not as scary as they sound, a Whale shark is a slow moving, plankton eating, don’t forget largest, fish in the sea!  They are comparable to the size of a yellow school bus! They are sometimes called a Gentle Giant and that they really are! We STRONGLY recommend swimming with the Whale Sharks if you are up for an adventure.
      1. After we swam with the Whale Sharks they took us to another Island, Isla Mujeres.  This is THE place that dreams are made.  The water is clear blue, the sand is super fine and the trees give you the best shade ever.  We were allowed to eat lunch on the island, which was a choice of fish and some wine – perfect after being in the sea all morning.
      1. **Things to bring with you** Swimwear, hat, beach towel, sunglasses, biodegradable sunscreen, extra money and you can also bring your own go pro.  Make sure to bring a bag to store all your thins in, because you do leave it on the boat while you are out swimming. It was very safe and secure on the boat too.
    2. Jolly Rodgers pirate ship & Dinner
      1. This is a dinner and a show.  It was an awesome show that was spoken in both Spanish and English.  They were interactive with the guests and got everyone involved.  You went underneath on the boat and ate dinner then when you came up they began the evening show, all the while the boat is cruising around on the ocean.
    3. Tulum island and the Mayan Ruins – with boat ride to front of the cliffs and snorkeling from the boat (great view of the island)
      1. This was another tour that we purchased at the front desk, it came with travel to the Ruins but we were on our own on the way back if we wanted to leave earlier/later.  We chose to stay on the island and had some food and drinks at a little shack.  They had FRESH Coconut, Fish Tacos and also some really neat wooden swings where you could just put your feet in the sand and RELAX.
      1. Highly recommend to hang out on the beach here, you can find transportation back. They had small little vans that they would “pack” with people, it cost us around 5 pesos to get a ride.
        1. Make sure to check out the hand made items on the walk into the ruins area, there will be some vendors set up all along the way and they do have some pretty neat gifts/souvenirs.
        1. This is also where we found the boat tour for the front of the walls of Tulum.  They were just standing out in front with a small box like desk, yes it looks a little sketch, but go and talk with them, they are happy to help.
      1. Cost to get in the Ruins 35-40 Pesos each, also it is VERY hot at the ruins – prepare for long lines and make sure to bring sunscreen, hats and even swim suits!
      1. Cost of the boat tour around the front walls of the Mayan Ruins 60 pesos each – we booked this when we arrived at Tulum, there are stalls out at the front that are very helpful.
    4. Dinner OFF of the Resort – at an Italian restaurant which was referred to us and we were taken by a local!IMG_2115 2.jpg
      1. Cenacolo – traditional Italian Restaurant with homemade pastas and dishes served out of cheese wheels.  Fresh and delicious fish plates, we had a crab cake started, soooo good!  Here is the address, Cenacolo / 5ta Av. (28) / 77710 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, just in case you want to try.
    5. Explore the Night life in downtown Cancun La Vaquita – is a club in the downtown area, and was super packed.  We had shown up kinda early so there were some spaces up stairs and could order a few drinks to have a good night on the town.
      1. Coco Bongo – another packed bar, but has GREAT entertainment with many impersonators such as Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Tina Turner.
      1. La Bodeguita del Medio – We found this really neat Cuban Bar that had live Cuban music playing and had some of the best Mojitos.  YUM!
    6. Xel Ha –  All inclusive water park 
      1. Xel-Há provides one of the best experiences in the heart of the Riviera Maya. At this All Inclusive Park you can enjoy snorkeling, water activites, restaurants and the best scenery to admire while you relax in a hammock or stroll the nooks and crannies of Xel-Há
      1. We again purchased thought our front desk, the cost was a little expensive ~$110 per person which got us the All inclusive pass and the transportation to the water park.
      1. All you can eat and drink
      1. Swim with dolphins (costs extra)
      1. Float the lazy river and stop to experience a few cliff jumps
      1. Zip line across the waters
      1. Scuba dive to the bottom of the ocean and touch the Stingrays and also see all the fish on the bottom of the ocean floor
      1. Snorkel in the bay as long as you want and see some interesting fish, we saw a barracuda!
    7. Hang out at the resort and get a little R&R, swim in the many luxorious pools, relax on the beach in a cabana, take part in the afternoon snacks and parties and drink all of the fruit drinks.. 🙂
    8. Explore the town of Play Del Carmen – we went to the Parque Los Fundadores – Seaside park with sculptures, a kids’ playground & traditional Mayan dance performances.
      1. We roamed around and got our selves lost ( on purpose). This is were we saw the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) it is an ancient ritual which consists of dance and the climbing of a 30-meter pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. According to one myth, the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought.
    9. At night there was always a show at the resort, such as dancers or singers, and they always are interactive, great for kids.
    10. If you want to have dinner in a few of the “higher end” restaurants, talk to your front desk and make sure to make a reservation if it is required.

    A few things to note – in the airport there will be people that will offer all sorts and types of travel means, but honestly we did not rent a car there because there are other means of travel around Mexico.  We used the tours that came with transfers or we used a taxi as they weren’t very expensive and yes we felt safe (they do not speak English well though).

    Also, make sure to get cash in the airport, as some of the ATM’s out of the airport do not always work.  You will need cash to pay for taxis, snacks, dinners, as credit cards aren’t the “normal” means of payment.